Active Citizenship, Public Engagement and the Humanities

It would be easy to deduce, from the tenor of some recent discussions of Higher Education, that the humanities have only recently been faced with serious questions about their social impact, and that humanities scholars are ill-prepared to articulate the public role of their disciplines.  Yet there is a rich history of active public engagement in the humanities, and complex and vibrant debates about the future of such engagement – and this series of seminar will explore both.  The seminar will bring together people from different departments (History, Divinity, English) and from the wider community (policymakers, charities, educationalists and intellectuals), to explore the value of the humanities in civil society, including the role they play for democracy at large.

We will examine historical models of active citizenship from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and use them to challenge and inspire thinking about the public benefit of the humanities in the present. And we will focus not on top-down models of the dissemination of intellectual capital from the university to society, nor on models of widening access by which broader swathes of society are brought into the university, but on models of active engagement, whereby agents of the university collaborate in the formation of intellectual activity and community outside the university.

Questions raised will include:

* What role can humanities disciplines, such as literature, history, philosophy and anthropology, play in addressing, interpreting, informing, and contributing to social change?

* How does the nineteenth- century model of 'active citizenship' relate to present concerns about 'impact' in society?

* What models are available for intellectuals to practice active citizenship today?

* How might such models enable the humanities to respond to charges of elitism?

Participants will have the opportunity to form a ‘Rising Stars’ Group which will benefit from the support and training provided by the Public Engagement team during the Lent term.



Dr Mike Higton (Academic Co-Director, Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, Faculty of Divinity)
Dr Marcella P Sutcliffe  (AHRC Postdoctoral Research Associate, Faculty of History)


Dr Sara Cain (Early-Career Research, CTO, Corpus Christi College)
Dr James Golden  (Postdoctoral Research Associate,Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, Faculty of Divinity)

Past events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk